Some local parents I know received an important letter this week. It informed them of their eighth graders’ class placements for freshman year. High school may still be months away for these kids, but the letter made it official: They will be going, whether or not their parents are ready.
I certainly was not ready when I got the letter last year. My son is my oldest child, so I had no clue about summer school or zero hour. Should he sign up for either or both? He received honors placements for every possible class, but should he take them all? Would the schedule overwhelm him? Would his grades suffer? How could he possibly juggle such a heavy course load and the rigorous practice schedule of marching band — not to mention all the other extracurricular activities he wanted to pursue? Would he have time to make friends and establish strong, meaningful social connections?
For me, the letter marked the beginning of my son’s journey into adulthood, and I was terrified. But you know what? We figured it out, and here we are, a year later; both of us have managed just fine. We made it through some major milestones — his week away at marching band camp, his first homecoming dance and final exams, to name a few. There were some tears (mostly mine), arguments and sleepless nights along the way, but this child of mine, this soon-to-be adult, not only survived the first half of freshman year, he exceled. He took all honors classes and participated in what seemed like a bazillion activities, yet somehow he managed to earn stellar grades. He also met some really great kids along the way. I know it’s only one semester. I know there will be challenges ahead. But so far he has demonstrated confidence, maturity and strength of character. I think he is ready to handle those challenges, and I am figuring out how to manage the way I worry about them.
This week local parents of freshmen, myself included, also received an important letter. It was about driver’s education class. Considering that my son is not even 15, it caught me a little off guard. I remembered my own ill-fated driver’s ed experience (I had to take it twice), but then I thought of the many hours of video games my son has played over the years. All those driving games would surely help him navigate the roads better than his mother, who could probably still benefit from a little Mario Kart practice at age 46.
I decided to file this particular letter under “things to worry about later.” The person I was last year would have been a mess after reading it. But the mother I am now, after the year of tremendous change and growth we both experienced, knows that the milestones are going to keep coming. Whether or not I am ready for them, they will continue to occur and in quick succession. I cannot stop them, but I can change how I react to them. If I deal with them as they happen rather than worrying about them for months in advance, I can manage them. At least I have so far.
Yesterday, I bought my son a new tie for the TWIRP (“the woman is required to pay”; we used to call it Sadie Hawkins back in the ’80s) dance this weekend. I also ordered a corsage for his date, a bright, lovely girl who goes to another high school. Am I nervous about him going to the dance? Not really. We already crossed off “first high school dance” from the milestone list, remember? Plus, I’m too busy being thankful he doesn’t have a license and won’t be driving to the dance. I have some time, a little bit anyway, before I have to worry about that one.